How to Become a Grandmaster or Achieve any Goal - Secret 1

Hey Champions!
We have an interesting article on our Blog about this topic.
If you have any questions, comments or you just liked it, feel free to share your thoughts here :) 

Timothy Harris

Timothy Harris 1 year ago

A well written article that points out many important things about "how to improve your game" or "how to become a GM" or "IM" or whatever one's goal in chess might be.  This applies not only to chess but also to several aspects of life, in general.  I am not a GM.  I am not an IM.  I mention these two facts because of perhaps the most important takeaway from the article:

1.  Understand and try to accept that there are things we do not even realize we do not know.  To "know what one does not know" is perhaps the "Eureka" moment when trying to achieve a goal.  To truly achieve your chess goals there are some things that each person must first acknowledge then understand and ultimately accept as a fact before they are even capable of creating a goal that is actually achievable.  

   For example, if you want to become a physician, then you have to understand and accept the fact that to reach your goal and actually becoming a physician, you must go through many years of academic preparation, then attend four years of medical school, then graduate and, beyond that, you must pass exams in whatever state you plan to practice in just to start working as a physician.  Further, you must understand that this process is not free.  To achieve the goal I use in this example one needs to also (I mean before ever even beginning college ideally) know if you will be able to pay for the costs of all that is required (tuition, books, etc which is often hundreds of thousands of dollars) to achieve the goal of becoming a physician.  Either you can or cannot.  There is no in-between.  So, one must have (or create) a plan both short term and long term that maps out as best as possible the way you, as a unique individual, can do to ensure you will have every opportunity to achieve your goal.  

Point:  In the words of Socrates, and I'll paraphrase, the first step toward wisdom (which is different than "knowledge") is to admit you know nothing."  It is very easy to say "I want to be a GM." There is a reason, though, few GM's exist among all known chess players on the planet.  To achieve you goal, you must first take time, a lot of time, and do some introspection, that is, reflect upon why you want to become a GM or other goal you have.  Why? Can't be for money because few GM's make a lot of money from chess.  If not money, then why do you want to become a GM? Do you deep down really dream about the accolades and respect often given to those that have achieved the GM title? Ask yourself why do you feel that you want or need praise, accolades, or a title to get respect or fame in chess or any field.  Each individual must do a lot of "soul searching" and understand things about themselves they might never have even realized.  

Becoming a GM in chess requires far more study than you probably ever dreamed of.  We all learn in different ways. Some learn quicker than others. To become a chess GM you need to understand how you learn best and you must be able to accept losing games, be able to accept constructive criticism, understand that along the path to becoming a chess GM include how much of your life are you truly willing do dedicate to the study, discipline, self-doubt and yes, you're going to face it, and the years of applying what you study to tournament play?  

Only set a goal after you carefully think about everything that you must do to achieve it.  With chess, I highly doubt fame and fortune are the driving motives that keep one on track to achieving the GM title. It is, ultimately, a burning desire that arises from a deep love of the game itself that creates a passion within you that is hard to describe with mere words, that probably exists in every or most chess GM's.  If you do not absolutely love and with a deep passion...love chess for the beauty of the game itself then it is less likely you will achieve the GM title.  

You are more than a title.  If one truly has a passion for chess, you will play and enjoy the game and probably think less about a title and a number (ratings which folks obsess about rather than the beauty of the game itself), than enjoying chess and improving simply because it is part of what defines you as "you." 

I just completed a third Master's degree in philosophy. I am not bragging and I mention it to demonstrate a point.  First, I set a goal.  Second, I understood before ever beginning this path that it would not get me a job or, at least, not something that pays well. It had nothing to do with financial gain.  I did it because I have a deep and lifelong passion beyond simply saying "I love" the subject but I achieved the goal and graduated just a week ago and it does not bring accolades, fame, or fortune.  Yet, I loved every moment of the process because I had a burning desire to keep learning more and more for nothing other than the sake of learning and gaining knowledge.  

That deep passion and desire to learn more is something you cannot be taught usually but either have it or do not have it...which is fine. For me, achieving this academic goal was deeply personal and fulfilling upon achieving it.  I will continue for my entire life to learn more about what I love the most.  It will not make me rich nor respected.  It usually is perceived as "weird." I do not care. This is what a burning desire means in one context. Was it easy? No. It was a process that was long, often filled with tedious nonsensical institutional rules that you must accept and deal with to achieve the goal.  Now that I actually achieved it, I do not regret the process for a moment.  For me, I had a burning desire to achieve this goal and after years of study and hard work, I did it. The reason:  It led to a personal sense of fulfillment born from a deep love and passion about the subject that defines how I perceive the world and like becoming a GM in chess, a deep desire and passion of the game itself is perhaps the first prerequisite to going from it being a mere dream to a reality.  

Along the way to achieving your chess goals, you will learn more about yourself and gain more wisdom in general than you even realize at this point in time.  My chess goal is to become the best (using all of my natural talent and skills) I can at the game in order to UNDERSTAND chess as this brings more joy and long term appreciation for the game on a personal level than any title that exists.

My goal might include earning a title or achieving a certain ELO.  If I reach a 2200 ELO, that is great.  If not, then I know deep down I have done all I can with the skills I have to understand and enjoy my passion for chess which I will play and study regardless of anything else.  

I think I  can achieve an ELO of 2000 or 2100 within the next decade. My goal is not to become a GM because to begin at my age such a difficult goal is setting oneself up for much disappointment.  It is not about a title.  Study for the love of the game. This desire will bring you much contentment and probably a few title along the way. It might bring you the GM title. If you begin each day with a deep love and passion for chess, then improvement will come in ways unique to you and the game will bring you a sense of fulfillment beyond any rating or title can ever do.   It will bring you a sense of meaning and purpose that is part of having a burning desire for chess or something else. 

I hope this made sense.  It is from my perspective only and expresses only my personal opinions.  To all:  Best of luck in all your chess endeavors.

Inguh Kim

Inguh Kim 1 year ago

Not so simple though. Perhaps 'weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat'. But a small amount of fire can make a large amount of fire!
David Flynn

David Flynn 1 year ago

This is true to some degree (can't say about grandmaster as I'm not there yet and I have to be realistic at my age and amount of time I can spend on chess with other commitments). It is very much the theme of Rocky III (the song Eye of the Tiger was written by Survivor for it) that a hungry young upstart can topple a champion who no longer has his heart in it. It's also the message in Napoleon Hill's 'Think and Grow Rich' that to achieve (in this case super wealth) it requires burning of bridges to force you to commit to it (Malcolm Gladwell for example disagrees and points to certain opportunities that were only available in a limited window of time to those who made it very big. Also we look at it with survivor bias and not investigate all those that didn't make it we don't hear of).

However, the contrary point is that if you put everything in to achieving that goal, you can miss out on a lot of other things that make a person complete and well rounded (education, career, family, other hobbies, friends...) - and is it really what you want given the journey to get there? One of my favourite quotes is (from the film The Life of David Gale, but paraphrased []) 'Be careful what you wish for. Not because you won't get it, but when you do [you might realise you didn't want it after all]'. Not all GMs are happy!

Then there is the question of the individual. For some people either from where their start, or getting the right support will get there a lot sooner than others, and at the top level will outperform most of the others irrespective of what these others try to do. There is a psychological barrier of course (the 4 minute mile being the most famous), but towards the top innate characteristics come into play which are hard to compensate for by not having them (and often starting later). This is probably not GM level (I certainly believe if most good chess players had the right attitude, got the right training and had the time/resources, IM level is achieveable), but maybe 2600-2700 level starts to become a barrier (that big pgn won't memorise itself). I was unlikely to become say a sprinter, artist or therapist because I've never been fast and muscular, I'm awful at art and don't really enjoy it, and even though I enjoy psychology and helping people I'm a problem solver rather than empathiser. It's not that I couldn't learn or adapt to do these things to some degree if I put all the effort in, but the amount of effort would be huge compared to others, and certainly the later would need me to change who I am to be authentic which would mean I lose out elsewhere where my problem solving skill is useful. Similarly some just aren't cut out to be good chess players (those who just enjoy playing, or don't see the point in chess, or aren't good at thinking logically), let alone grandmasters.